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College Handbook



Since over ninety percent of Gonzaga Prep students initially pursue a college experience, the Counseling Department has prepared this handbook to guide parents and students through this sometimes baffling, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes arduous, but ultimately fulfilling process. Gonzaga Prep counselors provide full college advising; you need not pay a private party for services.
What is one of the key elements in achieving success?  Have a plan and work the plan! Every day is easier, whether at home, work, or school, when you know appointment schedules or class expectations.  The focus of this handbook is to assist in the creation and implementation of a plan for success at Gonzaga Prep.  Graduating from our school does not happen in a vacuum or by osmosis. Interaction by the student with family, teachers, peers, counselors, coaches, and administrators shapes each personal plan.  The time is NOW; not next week, next quarter, next semester or next year.  Our mission is to help students overcome the obstacles to success.  Each year brings new courses, teachers, national tests, and personal challenges.  However, throughout the four years, the emphasis on the following elements remains constant.
  1. read!  Read!  READ!   Keep books in the car, at the lake, beside the bed.  Read and discuss articles in the news.
  2. Achieve good grades.  Low grade point averages in grades 9 and 10 cannot be raised significantly in grades 11 and 12.  Courses are harder, and there are more demands on your time.
  3. Be accountable.  Prepare daily.  Be organized.  Ask questions.  Seek help; find a tutor.  Be a tutor.  If scores are disappointing, analyze what went wrong and change your plan.  Focus on solving the problem, not blaming.
  4. Be involved.  Discover new talents.  Every new challenge involves risk, but the more diverse your activities, the more interesting you are to colleges, employers, and friends.
As you plan for high school success, use this handbook as a guide to the many services
 available from the dedicated counselors, faculty, staff, and administrators at Gonzaga  Prep.


  1. Familiarize yourself with the Counseling Center.
  2. Initiate academic character: study daily; be punctual; ask questions; talk with teachers; raise your hand in class; be assertive; challenge yourself; don’t whine; take control of your learning experience; seek a tutor if you need one.
  3. Take the PSAT9 in October to better understand your academic skills/abilities and gain familiarity with college admissions tests.

  4. Evaluate your four year plan to remain competitive for college admissions.
  5. Build your resume in the Naviance Family Connection.
  6. Arrange an appointment with your counselor to discuss academic planning for college.
  7. Talk with family members and teachers about the colleges they attended.
  8. Apply what you learn in one course to other courses you are taking.  Improve problem solving skills.
  9. read!  Read!  READ! Reading a wide variety of literature is the #1 factor in improving verbal skills.

10th GRADE

10th GRADE
  1. Evaluate academic success and adjust.  What went well?  What did not?  What do you need to change?
  2. Monitor the balance between academic and social involvement.  Choose activities that are meaningful to you and about which you can become passionate.
  3. Learn about resources available to you that will help you plan for college.  Log in to Naviance Family Connection often.  Refer to the Counseling Department website
  4. read!  Read!  READ!
  5. Use your full legal name on all test and application forms.  Be consistent.
  6. Take the PreACT in October to better understand your academic skills and abilities as well as predict your ACT score.
  7. Talk with your teachers.  Ask for extra help when you first realize you need it.  Don’t procrastinate.
  8. Seek a tutor when you need help.
  9. Notice your talents; fine tune them!
  10. Attend the National College Fair in the fall with your parents.
  11. Be involved in school. Consider volunteer work during the summer or school year.
  12. Meet with your counselor to review college preparatory course selection and extracurricular plans.
  13. Consider adding college visits to your vacation plans.
  14. Develop your problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

11th GRADE

11th GRADE
  1. read!  Read!  READ!  Voraciously!
  2. Register for NCAA/NAIA eligibility.
  3. Take the PSAT/NMSQT in October.  This test is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Achievement Scholarship Program, and the National Hispanic Scholars Program. It will also help to predict your SAT score.
  4. Attend the National College Fair in the fall. Develop a preliminary list of colleges in which you are interested and add them to your Colleges I’m Thinking About list in Family Connection.
  5. Take the Career Interest Profiler in Family Connection to examine career interests and college majors.
  6. Examine financial resources with your parents and review your plans for financial aid.

  7. Work to your potential in all your classes!  Maintain or improve your g.p.a.
  8. In the spring, arrange for an appointment for both your parents and you to meet with your counselor to review college preparation.
  9. Compare PSAT/PreACT scores, course selection, extracurricular activities, grades and tentative college plans with college requirements.
  10. Have specific colleges and requirements in mind before choosing classes for senior year.
  11. Consider taking an SAT and/or ACT review class as well as utilizing Naviance Test Prep on Family Connection and any other free test prep sites.
  12. Take SAT plus essay and/or ACT plus writing during the spring of your junior year.  See your counselor for advice.
  13. Investigate taking the SAT subject test(s) in area(s) in which you have done well for college enhancement and/or requirements.
  14. Identify an upper division, academic core teacher whom you could ask for a letter of recommendation for college.
  15. Visit colleges.
  16. Research and narrow college selections.
  17. Investigate the requirements for military academies and ROTC scholarship opportunities.
  18. Begin a scholarship search.
  19. Explore college dual enrollment opportunities.

12th GRADE

12th GRADE
  1. Maintain good study habits and grades.

  2. Polish your resume and complete your teacher and counselor biographies in Family Connection. These documents must be completed by October 1st at the latest. You must give your teacher and counselor at least two school weeks notice before any deadlines.

  3. Request teacher letters of recommendation in person and then follow with the request in Family Connection.

  4. Investigate scholarship opportunities.

  5. Attend college visitations at Prep.

  6. Discuss Early Action/Early Decision options and deadlines with your counselor.

  7. Apply to colleges in a timely manner.

  8. Retake SAT plus essay, ACT plus writing, or SAT Subject Tests, as necessary.

  9. Be thankful: write notes to teachers and counselors for services and recommendations.

  10. Attend College Process/Financial Aid Night with your parent(s).

  11. Work with your parents to send in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on October 1st or as soon as possible thereafter.  Contact colleges to find out if additional financial aid forms are necessary. Observe financial aid application deadlines.

  12. Inform your counselor of your admission and scholarship decisions.  Update your Family Connection account with all application results.

  13. Read your emails daily.  Colleges will contact you via email.


Choosing a college is a process to discover the right fit.  The bottom line should be that the student and the right college will be academically, socially, and spiritually compatible.
Identify personal factors influencing college selection. Utilize Supermatch in Family Connection.
  • Personal attitude
  • Location
  • Environment
  • Admission requirements       
  • Programs offered
  • Study abroad programs offered
  • Size
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Men, women, or co-educational
  • Expenses
  • Financial aid
Talk to your parents, counselor, teachers, and friends about the type of college in which you are interested and obtain ideas of some colleges that match your wish list.
Begin a list of prospective colleges and contact them for information. 
Visit colleges on their websites.
Create a college file to organize the information you will receive.
Visiting campuses early in your high school career is advisable.  Attending a local university’s athletic or cultural events can help you develop a sense of what you will eventually look for in a college.  Family vacations offer an excellent opportunity to visit out of town colleges, to gather literature, or to arrange a tour of the school. 
We recommend you narrow your choices to five to seven schools by September 1st.  One choice might be your “dream school”, even if you only have an outside chance of being admitted.  Another choice should be a school where you have a strong possibility of acceptance and which you would like to attend if your first choice doesn't work out.  We recommend another choice be a school to which you will definitely gain admission.  


College testing has two primary purposes—admissions and financial aid. For admission purposes, most schools require either the SAT or the ACT. Some schools will also require placement exams (e.g. for math and English).
Juniors are encouraged to take one SAT plus essay (https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/) or ACT plus writing (https://www.act.org/) in the spring. Should the scores be satisfactory, the student need not take the test again. Use the summer to review and prepare for fall testing if needed. Most colleges specify a date by which the SAT or ACT needs to be taken or when the scores are to be received.
SAT Subject Tests are required by some colleges and universities. Students may take up to three SAT exams on one day. These tests are designed to measure what has been learned in particular subjects. These scores may be considered for admission along with other scholastic information about the student. Some schools use the scores for placement, especially in the subject areas of English, Mathematics, Science and World Languages. Some colleges will specify which tests must be taken in order to apply for general admission or for a special program.
Review individual colleges’ testing requirements. If you need to take BOTH the SAT and SAT Subject Tests, you must plan ahead as both may not be taken on the same testing date.
As freshmen, Gonzaga Prep students take the PSAT9  in October. This test serves two purposes:
  1. Assist in identifying academic strengths and weaknesses in Reading, Writing and Language, and Math;
  2. to project how the student might perform on the SAT;
As sophomores, Gonzaga Prep students take the PreACT  in October. This test serves three purposes:
  1. Assist in identifying academic strengths and weaknesses in English, Reading, Science, and Math;
  2. to project how the student might perform on the ACT;
  3. to enter a student search service which will enable students to receive information from colleges. 
As juniors, Gonzaga Prep students take the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). This test is administered to all juniors in October. The test serves three purposes:
  1. to identify areas of verbal and math strength and weakness in preparation for the SAT;
  2. to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition;
  3. to enter a student search service which will enable students to receive information from colleges.
An important point to remember is that no colleges will receive the results of the PSAT or PreACT without the student’s permission. 
  • Know what tests colleges require and by when you must take them.
  • Know how colleges use test scores
  • Know when and how to register for tests.
  • Prepare for college admission/placement tests:
  • read! Read! READ!
  • Follow the test taking principles and take practice tests
  • Utilize Naviance Test Prep in the Family Connection


Attending college will be one of the most important factors influencing the kind of person you will become--psychologically, socially, spiritually, and economically. Applying to college entails organizing yourself. Focus upon academic strengths, personality and character traits, and activities in which you have been and are currently involved. Begin early, ask questions, have a positive attitude. Remember You are in control.


I.       Pre-application Process

A.  Add to your list of  schools under "Colleges I’m Thinking About,” in Family Connection.

B.  Include at least one possible, one probable, and one “safety” school on your list.

C.  Read, sort, and select colleges for which you are suited.

D.  Take as rigorous a college preparatory program in high school as possible.

E.  Maintain good grades.

F.  Improve or maintain a positive personal profile e.g., social media and good character.

G. Set deadlines and meet them. 


II.      Application Process (Seniors)

            A.  Fill out applications

Because the application format varies so much from school to school, you may need to perform some or all of the following tasks.  Regardless, always put your best foot forward: make a rough draft; edit; proofread; and ask parents, counselor, or teacher to proofread again.


B.  Know Your Academic Profile

1.   High school course program (rigorous college preparatory, AP, and honors courses are positive factors)

2.  Grade point average

3.  Admission test scores: SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT 

4.  Official transcript

5.  School profile

6.  Grade trend

7.  Extenuating circumstances

            C.  Write your personal essay(s)

                   1. Essays must be concise, compelling, and correct

                   2. Be authentic

                   3. Help the admission personnel understand you as an individual

                   4. Investigate essay/personal statement requirements and topics for each school

            D.  Provide supporting documents whenever necessary

                   1. Secondary school (counselor) report

                   2. Teacher recommendation(s)

                   3. Materials that demonstrate personal skills and activities:

List your activities, honors, and awards that are most important to you and that  show the greatest level of involvement.  Quality, not quantity, is most important.

                   4. Mid-year/7th semester report, if required

            E.  Meet all deadlines

                   1. Counselors and teachers need two to three school weeks preparation time

                   2. Meet all application deadlines for colleges to which you are applying 


An increasingly important element of the college application process is the writing of the essay. It personalizes the applicant, making the student more than numbers on high school transcript and SAT or ACT score. A writing sample, the essay allows for creativity and expression, for demonstrating ability to design and uphold a thesis statement relative to broadly-based questions. With more qualified students than there are places at top colleges, the essay can be a major acceptance factor.
Starting early is essential. Since most students apply to several colleges and have several essays to write-on different topics, leaving the writing until a week before the application deadlines is a mistake. Even if using the Common Application most colleges will require supplemental essays. 
The more selective a college is, the more emphasis it places on good writing. All colleges expect the fundamentals to be present. A well-stated thesis, well-explained or upheld is, then, clearly required, and the mechanics of writing –grammar, punctuation, spelling, clear transitions- are “givens”.
In addition to demonstrating writing prowess, the student wants to bring a personality to the essay. Writing about something well-known or deeply felt is usually preferable to tackling questions such as solutions for global societal problems. The essay is not a research paper.
The most important aspect of the essay are editing and proofreading. A good essay takes time; an exceptional essay takes an exceptional amount of time. Editing- changing, and improving, words, phrases, entire paragraphs (pages!)- should be done during a student’s “prime time” for study. An essay that sounds brilliant at midnight may lose luster when read in the harsh light of noon. Proofreading should be done at least three times-once aloud, once backward, starting at the period, to catch spelling errors (easier when a word is seen out of context), and once, carefully from the beginning of each sentence. Spell-check and grammar-check on computers do not catch all errors; a student’s personal touch is still necessary. Several drafts are a minimum requirement.


With regards to the college process, two questions predominate. The first is, “Where should I go to college?” and the second is “How much will it cost?” These questions generally reflect the order of importance to the student, but, at times, the more important factor in selecting a college is cost. One of the first suggestions regarding selecting a college is to consider college possibilities without reference to cost. The actual cost of attending a particular college will vary greatly by the time the student receives his/her financial aid package from the college, so considering the financial package of each school is an important final factor in making a decision to attend a school.
No matter what the post-secondary educational plans, the family needs to have a plan to finance the education. Whether a state or private college or university, a two-year college, or a vocational school, cost will include such items as tuition, room and board, transportation, books and fees, and various personal expenses. 
Given the reality of needing to finance a post-secondary education, what does the process involve? Four basic factors are involved in determining the amount of financial aid: financial need, grade point average, activities, and character.
A family’s financial need is a significant factor in determining how much college will cost. Need is determined by the federal government, and the process is personal and complex. The process of determining need begins when a student and his/her family file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form cannot be filed until October 1st of the senior year or as soon thereafter as possible. Based upon the information given on the FAFSA, a family’s financial need is determined. Basically, need is the difference between how much a college education costs and the amount a family can pay (as determined by the results of the FAFSA.) Since many colleges are “need-based”, a student and his/her family must demonstrate need (through the FAFSA) before the college will give any grant or scholarship monies. College financial aid offices generally believe that the funding of post-secondary education is the primary responsibility of the student and family. Only when the student and family cannot afford the full expense, as determined by the “need analysis” above, is financial aid available. Need based financial aid does not include merit, athletic, and other types of non-need scholarships. Families should think of themselves as the first source of funds for college. When a college accepts a student for admission, the college will expect the student and family to do what they can to finance the education. 
G.P.A.: Other than a family’s financial need, the process of qualifying for financial aid begins when the student enters high school and earns a cumulative g.p.a. The grades earned during the 9th grade are just as important as those earned during 10th, 11th , and 12th grades.
Activities: includes such areas as fine and performing arts, athletics, student government, club involvement, community service, and employment. These activities expose students to possible scholarship opportunities. 
Character: refers to a student’s attitude and whether or not he/she has been responsible in the classroom and activities. The quality of a student’s character is reflected in the quality of a recommendation a student receives from his/her teacher, counselor, or supervisor. Since most scholarships require recommendations, attitude and effort will produce both short and long term consequences.


If you are interested in participating in college athletics, you must seek the advice of your parents, counselor, and coach. Further, we suggest you and your parents review both the NCAA and NAIA eligibility websites as early as possible.
The NCAA Eligibility Center website is www.eligibiltycenter.org
The NAIA website is www.playnaia.org